The Mon­tre­al Shtetl: Mak­ing Home After the Holocaust

January 1, 2013

Based on ethno­graph­ic research of Holocaust 

Sur­vivors who set­tled in Mon­tre­al post World War II, The Mon­tre­al Shtetl is an exam­i­na­tion of dis­place­ment migra­tion and reset­tle­ment. The arrival of tens of thou­sands of Jew­ish refugees was pal­pa­ble in the streets of Mon­tre­al and their impact on the exist­ing Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty is well-rec­og­nized. This book presents a por­trait of the dai­ly strug­gles of Holo­caust sur­vivors who set­tled in Mon­tre­al, where they encoun­tered dif­fi­cul­ties with work, lan­guage, cul­ture, health care, and a Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty that was not always wel­com­ing to sur­vivors. By reflect­ing on how insti­tu­tion­al sup­ports gen­der, and com­mu­ni­ty rela­tion­ships shaped the sur­vivors’ set­tle­ment expe­ri­ences, the authors show the rel­e­vance of these sto­ries to cur­rent state poli­cies on refugee immigration.

Discussion Questions

Cour­tesy of Zel­da Abramson 

Although The Mon­tre­al Shtetl is an ethno­graph­ic study of post-Holo­caust reset­tle­ment in Mon­tre­al, the larg­er nar­ra­tive is about dis­place­ment, migra­tion and resettlement.

  1. Is there a hier­ar­chy of who is a Holo­caust survivor?
  2. A num­ber of nar­ra­tives from chil­dren sur­vivors said that they felt silenced grow­ing up; as chil­dren they did not endure the same trau­ma as their par­ents. What are your views on chil­dren survivors?
  3. Why did the estab­lished Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ties resist the refugees when they first arrived?
  4. Giv­en the trau­ma the sur­vivors endured, do you think they want­ed to or could inte­grate with their respec­tive estab­lished Jew­ish community?
  5. Today the Holo­caust defines all Jews. When did the atti­tudes towards sur­vivors and why did it change? What were the polit­i­cal and cul­tur­al events that con­tributed to this dif­fer­ing standpoint?
  6. How were sur­vivors received in your respec­tive community?
  7. Were the reset­tle­ment expe­ri­ences sim­i­lar and/​or dif­fer­ent from those described in The Mon­tre­al Shtetl?
  8. A ques­tion we have got­ten at times is, How was PTSD of Holo­caust sur­vivors treat­ed?” PTSD was not rec­og­nized as a con­di­tion requir­ing atten­tion and treat­ment until the 1980s. What psy­cho­log­i­cal and oth­er health-relat­ed ser­vices were avail­able for the survivors?
  9. Did the nar­ra­tives offer a dif­fer­ent way of think­ing about post-Holo­caust resettlement?
  10. As one of the review­ers note: while [The Mon­tre­al Shtetl] per­tains to a very spe­cif­ic time and spe­cif­ic group of peo­ple I think it helps pro­vide an impor­tant focus on cur­rent events, divides, and thoughts. How does The Mon­tre­al Shtetl relate to your under­stand­ing of how refugees reset­tle today?
  11. Who should take pri­ma­ry respon­si­bil­i­ty to sup­port refugees in their resettlement?
  12. Which of the nar­ra­tives spoke to you most?